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Building Materials (36 Chalmers)

1000 hand-formed nails (white stoneware, unglazed fired to cone 6), found box built by Donald Hampson

I began making nails in the summer of 2021, at a time when my life had been profoundly disrupted. It was still heavy into the pandemic, I had moved to Ottawa after losing my job, housing, and studio in Banff due to Covid, and my long-term relationship had just ended. I was alone in a new city. 

Making nails was a meditation on creating the connections of a community, the tentative and often fragile act of reaching out. I thought about how genuine connections required vulnerability, and the strength it took to let yourself be vulnerable. Some connections hold strong, some break, but we must keep building.

I’m glad to say that I’ve now created a wonderful community of friends and artists in Ottawa. The 1000 nails sat in an empty yogurt container on my shelf, a gratefully forgotten memorial to a trying year. 


In the autumn of 2022, my grandmother became very ill. She made the difficult decision to leave the home she and my grandfather built over 60 years ago and move into a nursing home. While she is now happy and healthy, there was grief in leaving her home. As my family cleared the house out, we came across some boxes my grandfather made, and it struck me as a poignant home for the nails I’d made. 

The nails represented my longing for connection and security, at a time when I was uprooted and lost. In contrast, the wooden box is a well-established life, a space that has endured summer garden tomatoes, winter ice rink skating, childhoods, arguments, illnesses, death. And yet, it too was not permanent. All those memories of generations will be washed from the walls when the new family moves in.

How does one build a community? How does one carve out a secure space for themselves?

How does one leave their community? How does one cope when they lose the security of their space? 

We build and create, we protect and preserve, but circumstances change so quickly. The things we build are so fragile, they can be wiped out with a storm, an ill-considered comment, a missed payment, an illness. 


Building Materials (36 Chalmers) is a bittersweet piece for me. The last few years have eroded my belief in “the secure”, but it is not nihilistic. This piece holds the love for my grandparents, the hope that helped me persevere through a lonely year, whatever force it is that keeps us moving on. It is the moving on that counts. 

We build and we build and we build and we build. 

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